APRA Joins in Friend of Court Brief to Oppose Post-Sale Restrictions of the Use and Repair of Patented Products
The Automotive Parts Remanufacturers Association (APRA) has joined with two other remanufacturing associations to file a friend of the court brief in the United States Supreme Court opposing efforts by a software company to use patent law to impose post-sale restrictions on the use of its patented products. If the right to impose such restrictions is upheld by the nation’s highest court, the manufacturer of a patented product could use restrictive language in its sales documents to not only prevent certain uses of the product, but also to limit or deny the purchaser the right to resell, repair, remanufacture or refurbish that product.
The legal issue is whether the rights of a patent holder terminate at the time of sale of the product or whether it can impose post-sale restrictions on the purchaser of that product. Since early in the 20th century US patent law has held that a patent holder’s rights are “exhausted” at the time of the first sale of the product and that after that the purchaser is free to use, resell or repair the item in any way it wishes. Citing that precedent the US District Court in Northern California found for the computer manufacturers and against LG.
However, on appeal the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears all patent law appeals, reversed saying that the exhaustion rule only applies to unconditional sales and that by imposing a condition on the sales of the chips, LG had retained its right to impose post-sale restrictions. In other words, any manufacturer may avoid the exhaustion doctrine simply by imposing whatever conditions it wanted at the time of the sale.
APRA joined in the battle on the side of Quanta and the other computer manufacturers to protect the long-standing right of consumers and businesses to repair products. This right to repair is the legal cornerstone on which the rebuilding and remanufacturing industry is based. If the motor vehicle companies are allowed to require that their products could not be repaired or that only authorized companies could repair or rebuild them, the independent vehicle parts remanufacturing industry would cease to exist.
The Engine Builders Association (AERA) and the International Imaging Technology Council, the trade association for toner cartridge rechargers, joined APRA on the brief. An additional brief supporting Quanta was filed on behalf of Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco and EBay. The US Justice Department also filed a brief supporting Quanta. Oral argument on the case was scheduled for January 16th.